YOU’VE GOT TO WORK
Times may have changed but one thing remains constant, from Barry McGuigan’s era to the modern age: to get to the top you need to have the right work ethic. “I worked hard. Even after [Eusebio] Pedroza [when McGuigan won the world title], the Sunday after the Saturday I spent 15 minutes in the sauna shadow-boxing and going through my routines. A bit like Bernard Hopkins, I loved to train. If anything, I overtrained, I made myself sick of it. But it worked too, I had a very high level of fitness, I could fight at a very intense pace, which most guys couldn’t fight at,” Barry said.
His son Shane now trains Carl Frampton, another hard worker. But there are areas where modern boxing training has evolved. Shane’s fighters work hard, but in a different way. “I’d say strength and conditioning and nutrition would be the main ones. With strength and conditioning, people are loading up their legs, they’re getting their legs strong because they’re using their feet a lot more than they did,” said Shane. “[You might] think, ‘Do your long runs, then do your padwork and your sparring and you’ll be fine.’ The thing about long runs, it slows you down. You’re doing a repetitive motion all the time. When you’re boxing, you’re never going to be at one pace, you’re never going to throw the same shots all the time. It’s fighting in bursts and being explosive.”
There were hints of that approach in Barry McGuigan’s training. He ran at a high pace, saying, “I used to love to burn guys out when I was on the road and I was a pretty decent middle-distance runner.”
Shane is scientific in the sprint sessions he lays on for his fighters, frequently varying them. “If he’s close to the weight he’ll do more power stuff. So shorter distances, slightly longer rest. When he’s further out he’ll do longer distances, maybe 400m with a shorter rest. But they’re all based around 400m and below. All fast explosive pace, lots of 100s, 200s, 400s.
“You can do 100m, rest 30 seconds, 100m again, there’s loads of different
ways but as long as it’s always training that explosiveness – that’s the key.
We keep one steady-state run in there, we always do a five-miler once a week, normally on a Saturday, once the sparring, weights and pads are all complete.
We’ll still run at a six-and-a-half-minute-mile pace.”
Sparring is still paramount. “Sparring was and is the most important part of training because it simulates the real McCoy,” said Barry. “I used to spar big guys all the time. What Carl [Frampton]’s doing now is typical. I didn’t pull any punches when I sparred… I sparred hard and all my sparring partners were paid and they hit me as hard as they could, it was the same every time in sparring. It was hard graft. Occasionally we’d spar technically but it was hard graft because it had to simulate the real thing and I sparred really, really good kids.”
Barry McGuigan would start a typical training day with running at 8.30 or 9am. “I don’t know why people run at six o’clock in the morning when you’re fighting at 10 o’clock at night. I don’t quite understand that methodology,”
he said. “As long as you’re putting the effort in and you’re making your heart work really hard when you’re doing your interval stuff, that’s what it’s about.”
Shane has gone one step further. His fighters have their boxing session in the morning and then in the evening either do weight-training, if they’ve been sparring, or running. “We do our boxing training first, that’s the most important session of the day. That’s where they want to be fresh. All the strength and conditioning and the running and the sprints, they’re not going to be sprinters, they’re not going to be weightlifters, it’s all for their boxing. First up we make sure we put all our time and effort into the boxing and that’s normally about 11am,” Shane explained.
“I do a lot of technical work on the pads. That’s where people learn, it’s the most realistic movements. We do heaps and heaps and heaps of pads. Carl today he did 11 rounds on the pads with me and then he did one round on the bag to finish off with and then he did three rounds of shadow-boxing.
“A lot of padwork is technique stuff. Get your conditioning from hitting the bag, get your conditioning from doing the pads and your high-intensity skipping and stuff like that. We’ll start sparring with Carl and then after that he’ll warm up, he’ll get taped up, he’ll spar. We always spar first, we won’t do our pads first. Then if he spars eight rounds, we’ll finish off with four on the pads, or if he spars six rounds we’ll do maybe four on the pads and two on the bags but we’ll always make up the 12 rounds, even when we’re far out in camp, just because it helps get the weight down.”
Where the boxer is at in his training camp or sparring will inform his evening workout.
“It’s all periodised; when they’re further out we do more circuit-based stuff and then when he starts doing his heavy sparring, [the weight-training] becomes more strength-based, the reps get lower and then the last couple of phases we go a bit more into power. There’s always like a deload week, a week, 10 days before the fight, because you need to atrophy the guys [decrease their muscle mass] because they want to get into that weight category, be as light as they can but as big as they can for their weight category. There is definitely a science to it and 10-12 weeks out it’s all planned before they come into camp,” Shane explained.
Barry echoed his son’s view on the need for a scientific approach to modern boxing training, particularly when it comes to nutrition for weight-making. “Strength and conditioning is becoming a major focus on training. Steady-state running, most fighters are still doing it because it’s easy,” he noted but added, “making weight is still the biggest issue.”